Band Instrument Rip-offs
by Cathy B.
At this time of year, many new "band parents" are scrambling trying to find suitable and affordable band instruments for their children. I was overwhelmed when my first child entered band and I was left paying about $40 month rental for her clarinet. (I was not certain that she would stay in band, so I didn't want to commit to buying an instrument.) She DID stay in band, and over a three-year period, I paid approximately $1300 for a clarinet (that I now own) I could have bought for approximately half that price through a mail-order source, had I been aware of such a thing.
I have compiled a list of mail-order sources for band instruments and obtained catalogs and literature from all of them. I am sure there are more, but these were the ones I had feedback on from others by way of newsgroups and mailing lists. I paid approximately $650 for my second daughter's intermediate wooden clarinet (purchased through mail-order) that I was going to have to pay $1025 for through a local store. (The older daughter's clarinet cost even more....because of monthly maintenance fees and "carrying charges.")
My suggestion to frugal parents (who are interested in purchasing a new, instead of used instrument) is to find out what brand and model instrument your band director wants your child to obtain, and check prices with these companies before buying through a local music store. (Some stores will match the mail-order prices, if you ask.) In my community, students are encouraged to begin on an intermediate-level clarinet as opposed to the "student" model. The student model (which is quite acceptable in many communities) is available from mail- order for approximately $300 plus the mouthpiece and ligature set-up.
Another less expensive option is to purchase a "used" instrument on your own. This can be less expensive but more complicated than purchasing a used instrument through a music store. For those who are interested in buying "used" instruments, close contact with someone who knows the instrument is advisable. (I purchased a back-up student clarinet through the eBay auction site for $126. I'm quite pleased with the purchase and would do it again, but caution is necessary when purchasing a used instrument "sight-unseen.")
Following is my "mail-order" list. I have no affiliation with any of the companies. I have just heard of them and have obtained literature, or spoken with representatives of each (and purchased from one).
Mail Order Companies
International Musical Suppliers
P.O. Box 1122
Des Plaines, IL 60017-1122
Weiner Music Co.
216 East Jericho Turnpike
Mineola, NY 11051
1-800-622-CORK (voice orders)
Customer Service: 516-747-5004
(No shipping charges for pre-paid accessory orders over $25, paid with check or money order...excludes some larger items.)
Cathy is a mother who's "been there."